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Third US Army in the Great War

Third Army was born November 7, 1918, at Chaumont, France, when the General Headquarters of the American Expeditionary Forces issued General Order 198 organizing the Third Army and announcing its headquarters staff. On the 15th, Major General Joseph T. Dickman assumed command and issued Third Army General Orders No. 1.

On November 15, 1918, Major General Dickman was given the mission to move quickly and by any means into Central Germany on occupation duties. He was to disarm and disband German forces as ordered by General John J. Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Forces.

The march into Germany for occupation duty was begun on the 17th of November 1918. By December 15th the Third Army Headquarters at Mayen opened at Coblenz. Two days later, on 17 December 1918 the Coblenz Bridgehead, consisting of a pontoon bridge and three railroad bridges across the Rhine, had been established.

Third Army troops had encountered no hostile act of any sort. In the occupied area, both food and coal supplies were sufficient. The crossing of the Rhine by the front line divisions was effected in good time and without confusion. Troops, upon crossing the Rhine and reaching their assigned areas, were billeted preparatory to occupying selected positions for defense. The strength of the Third Army as of 19 December, the date the bridgehead occupation was completed, was 9,638 officers and 221,070 enlisted men.

During January 1919, the Third Army was engaged in training and preparing the troops under its command for any contingency. A letter of instruction was circulated to lower commanders prescribing a plan of action in case hostilities were resumed. Installations were set up throughout the Army area to facilitate command.

In February 1919, military schools were opened through the Third Army area; a quartermaster depot was organized; 2,000 officers and enlisted men left to take courses in British and French universities; better leave facilities were created; and plans for sending American divisions to the United States were made. On 4 February, the military control of the Stadtkreis of Trier was transferred from GHQ to the Third Army.

In March 1919, routine duties of occupation and training were carried on; an Army horse show was held; Army, corps, and divisional educational centers were established in the Third Army Zone; the Coblenz port commander took over the duties of the Coblenz regulating officer; the 42d Division was released from IV Corps and was placed in Army Reserve.

In April 1919, the exodus of American divisions from Third Army to the United States began. During the month, motor transport parks were established; an Army motor show was held; the Army area was reorganized; and the centralization of military property was initiated in anticipation of returning it to the United States. On April 20, 1919, Third Army command changed from Maj. Gen. Dickman to Lt. Gen. Hunter Liggett.

On 14 May, Marshal Ferdinand Foch, General-in-Chief of the Allied Armies, submitted plans of operations to the Third Army commander to be used in the event that Germany should refuse to sign the peace treaty. On 20 May, Marshal Foch directed allied commanders to dispatch troops toward Weimar and Berlin in the event the peace treaty was not signed. On 22 May, the Third Army issued its plan of advance, effective 30 May, in view of the impending emergency. On 27 May, Marshal Foch informed General John J. Pershing, Commander-in-Chief, AEF, that the Supreme War Council desired allied armies be made ready immediately to resume active operations against the Germans.

On 1 June 1919, the advance GHQ, AEF, at Trier was discontinued. On 16 June, Marshal Foch notified General Pershing that allied armies must be ready after 20 June to resume offensive operations and that preliminary movements were to begin 17 June. On 19 June, General Pershing notified Marshal Foch that beginning 23 June the Third Army would occupy the towns of Limburg, Westerburg, Hachenburg, and Altenkirchen and that III Corps would seize the railroad connecting these towns. On 23 June, the Germans signified their intention to sign the peace treaty and contemplated operations were suspended. On 30 June, Foch and Pershing conferred in regard to American troops to be left on the Rhine.

On 1 July, General Pershing notified the War Department that upon Germany's compliance with military conditions imposed upon her (probably within three months after German ratification of the treaty), the American forces in Europe would be reduced to a single regiment of infantry supplemented by necesary auxiliaries.

On 2 July 1919, the Third Army was disbanded, its headquarters and all personnel (numbering about 6,800 men) and units under it were thereafter designated American Forces in Germany. This force remained in Germany for over three years.

The United States, having rejected the Treaty of Versailles, remained technically at War with Germany until the summer of 1921 when a separate peace was signed.

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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 01:27:25 ZULU